Skin of the Sea

Natasha Bowen (Penguin)

Skin of the Sea

Review by Shanae
Overall, I really enjoyed the book because the story had an enticing plot but also the link to African mythological beliefs was interesting.

In my opinion, I think that Simidele was a very interesting character because even though she isn’t allowed to save other humans (as it’s not her job), she felt the need to help him anyway even though it goes against everything that she has been taught. I also liked the fact that they included the idea of her ‘losing her past and her culture’ because she was no longer human.

In the book, Simidele is taken away to the sea, she then loses all of her memories from her home, her identity and her culture. The history from this book made me think more into the messages that this book was showing about the past. I didn’t know too much about African mythology and history, I only knew of some events. The plot itself was mostly adventurous and partially serious also. This made it easier to read the book as it has a storyline that I could follow without losing interest.

The book has made me want to know and read more about African history. I would recommend this to other students because it teaches them about history, but in a way that they won’t lose interest and may want to read more about it.

Review by Alizay
I found the book very interesting. I loved reading it and enjoyed it very much. I learnt a lot of new things and enjoyed the storyline of the book a lot. I felt a lot of different emotions while reading the book whether sometimes it was sad and sometimes it was happy. I liked reading about the journey and the quest they went on to find the rings – the storyline was my favourite part of the book. I thoroughly loved reading it and can’t wait to soon read the second book of the series.

Review by Madison
I loved this book; I find it fascinating to learn about history through fiction. The plot was engaging, and I found myself longing to know what was going to happen next. This book was incredibly well thought through, everything linked up well.

The character I found most interesting was Simidele. This is because her character was very well developed. The flashbacks she experienced helped to deepen her character and provide a beautiful insight into her past. I especially enjoyed finding out that her name means ‘follow me home’ as this was later used when was defeated Esu, the messenger to Olodumare.

I found the character of Kola the most attractive because of his care for his siblings, the twins Taiwo (meaning having the first taste of the world) and Kehinde (meaning arriving after the other). He was incredibly gentle with them and Issa, who he frequently calls little brother. His character shows quite a lot of vulnerability, which is not typically a quality portrayed in male characters, however in this story, it makes him appear stronger and makes his character more likable.

While reading this book, I learned more about enslaved West African people, abducted by Portuguese people in the 1400s. These events were part of the transatlantic slave trade. I also learnt a great deal more about African mythology, Mami Wata in particular. Although I knew about the transatlantic slave trade, I found it interesting to learn about it through a more personal depiction. It really showed me the horrors that the families of the people stolen faced and the writing style helped me to gain sympathy for them. I didn’t know anything about African mythology when I began this book, and I will be researching more into this in the future.

I will definitely recommend this book to my peers. I think it can help everyone to learn about such an integral part of history that has previously been glossed over. I will also be reading book 2 when it is released.

Review by Mariam
At first, I thought this book was mainly about the history of slavery and the fictional perspective of how mermaids could have saved them but after reading the author’s note and doing more research, this book includes the history of Afro-Caribbean religion. This aspect of the book really stood out and also the diversity of the book. It was a book that you could not put down because you couldn’t wait for the ending. When the ending came, there was a huge plot twist. The way the book was written was in a way everyone could understand. Especially, when the author was trying to explain the details of certain religious events and the mami wata and their origins. She would often refer back to situations that happened previously, without being repetitive. The way she explained the love between Simidele and Kola seemed rational and realistic in the circumstances they faced. The emotion she carries within the book from Simidele’s perspective made it relatable for the reader as well.

There was not much that I disliked about this book. Although, some younger readers might find it harder to understand the religious system used in this book and they also might struggle with the names.

This book is one of the few books I have read by a black author and black main characters. This book explained different aspects I would not have learned if it were not from reading this book. With the rise of other black authors too, this book feels inclusive to other races and helps younger audiences to understand other races as well.

Review by Mia
Follows Simi who is a young girl that is a mami wata or a mermaid and is tasked by the orsisa yemoja to help all of the souls of the people who’ve passed away in the sea from slave ships to help their soul cross over to the other side and return to the creator.

One day however Simi sees a body in the water and it turn outs to be a boy who is alive even though Yemoja has told Simi that the only thing that she can do is help the souls cross over. She can’t help it, she has to go and help the boy, but Yemoja finds out what Simi has done. She tells [Simi] that she has to go and try petition the creator for forgiveness because otherwise it could mean the extinction of the mami wata and so Kola the boy she saves agrees to help her on her journey now.

I though the plot and the premise of this book was absolutely wonderful. I loved all of the west African mythology in the book. It is a really compelling plot and story line.

I was a bit disappointed though as it was too short because so many things happened and there was not enough time to fully explore it all. I think that the biggest drawback of that was that it had so many plots and there needed to be more depth to the characters so the reader can build a connection. I think the most compelling characters were the side characters rather than Simi.

Overall, I would recommend this book as I did enjoy reading it.

Review by Leah
I found Simidele the most interesting character because she was the main character who was also a mermaid and we didn’t know as much about the other characters. So, although I liked all the of the characters, they didn’t have much personality, unlike Simidele.

I learnt many new things about the past, specifically West African culture and mythology which was really new to me. The book being set in the sea made it really interesting.

The plot was very exciting but also seemed like a typical fantasy book. The mythology mixed in with it made it quite unique.

What most stands out for me is that it's about mermaids because mermaids are not what I was expecting but very enjoyable and I got to understand other mythology.

I learnt many new words, reading this book exposed me to a new world of vocabulary and I learnt many new facts about West African and mythology.

The thing that I didn’t like about the book was how fantastical it was but that is just my preference and think this book would be highly enjoyed by people who like reading fantasy books.

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